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Mystical Autumn Leaves

Mystical Autumn Leaves

Why did God create a world where I need to do all this raking?


With Labor Day announcing the unofficial end to summer, I noticed something on my neighbor's lawn that filled me with dread: fallen leaves! (Thank God it was not my lawn. Yet.)

Autumn always makes me think about the laborious task of raking leaves off my lawn -- day after day, week after week. What kind of meaning and growth can I derive from raking thousands of leaves off my lawn? Why did God create a world where I need to do all this raking?

In Kabbalistic thought, the seasonal calendar is a reflection of the spiritual calendar. The environmental conditions of the world are landmarks for the spiritual growth we should be experiencing during that season. Specific times of the year are predisposed to hardship, and other times are predisposed to renewal and joy. We might call this "spiritual weather."

Environmental conditions are landmarks for the spiritual growth we should experience during that season.

This is why the Hebrew word for time is zman, which means "prepared." Each moment in time is already prepared and predestined for a specific type of growth. In addition, the Hebrew word for year is shana, which means to repeat -- because every year contains the same basic elements of the previous year, but with new opportunities for growth.

The spiritual power of renewal that exists in springtime is physically manifest in the budding of new fruits and flowers. Summer's spiritual hardships are manifest through the oppressive summer heat.


What is the spiritual message of the fallen leaves in autumn? And why does God make leaves transform into beautiful, magnificent colors just before they loosen from the tree, float to the ground, and die?

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, always occurs in autumn. This is the time of year when Jews are to introspect and evaluate the state of their souls. You might call Rosh Hashana services the "Annual State of the Soul Address."

God does not want us to become spiritually dejected, so He sends beautiful autumn leaves.

Too often, we may delve deeply into our souls and find much lacking. These thoughts can depress us and make it difficult to plan and achieve growth for the coming year. God does not want us to become spiritually downtrodden and dejected, so He sends us the beautiful autumn leaves.

Driving on American highways in the fall is often a remarkable sight. As Grace Aguilar writes in her poem, "Autumn Leaves":


Autumn Leaves!
How beautiful your fading glories are,
O'er hill and dell, o'er wood and fell,
ye shed rich light afar,
Of every gorgeous hue and shade-brown,
ruddy, green, and gold,
Each glance more brilliantly arrayed, new glowing rays unfold.


God truly makes a rainbow of colors in the leaves. Why?

Rav Tzaddok (in "Likutei Ma'amarim") describes leaves as a symbol for righteous actions. These include simple actions which are not always accentuated or perceived. Similarly, The Talmud (Sukkah 21b) explains the verse in Psalms 1:3, "[A righteous person] shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth fruit in its season, and whose leaves do not whither." The Talmud says that "leaves" refers to the simple, idle conversations of righteous individuals that are conducted without forethought and go unnoticed.

God shows us beautiful leaves during the introspective season of autumn because He is reminding us of positive and pure actions that we have overlooked. We have accomplished greatly during the past year, yet we do not usually give ourselves credit for meaningful and righteous deeds. We need to know that we have much to build on for the coming year, and we should take pride in who we are and what we have done. Yes, we need to improve and eliminate some misguided deeds and character traits -- but we can only do that by building on the positive accomplishments of the past year.


We must also realize that even though we have many good deeds under our belts, we can never rest on our laurels. The beautiful leaves fall and the tree remains bare to show that we must start to build new and better deeds in the coming year.

The tree remains bare to show that we must start to build new and better deeds in the coming year.

Yes, we rake in all of our leaves, all of our hundreds and hundreds of magnificent holy actions, but we must renew and start again to grow new leaves. We must make all our actions, all our leaves, "for healing" -- for helping others and ourselves achieve great heights -- as the prophet proclaims: "So its waters will grow from the Sanctuary, so its fruit will be for food and its leaves for healing." (Ezekiel 47:12)

In a week or two, I'll be heading outside with my rake in hand. But instead of feeling frustrated by the mounds of leaves, I will try to contemplate my actions, one by one, leaf by leaf. I will gather all of my deeds from the previous year, and look to create more of those healing leaves that cure, one by one, the spiritual darkness and disease in our lives.


September 8, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 26

(26) Helen Schwab (Chaiah), August 31, 2014 5:40 AM

You won't like this!, but...

... here's a non-spiritual take: I love raking up the leaves b/c I store them in a few 32-gal. trash bins and use them all year to build my compost heaps! I throw all my kitchen scraps (but not meat, so as to not bring rats) on the pile and cover with leaves. After a year, it has decomposed into lovely rich black earth that I use in my flower, herb & tomato pots, and around my trees and shrubs.

Still, I admit I am sad to see the summer end. It reminds me of my mortality, which I suppose is what G-d wants, as this is the season for Return.

(25) Dr. Bernie Siegel, August 29, 2014 12:14 AM

spirituality and leaves

we grow up as green leaves to make the family tree happy but when the fall of our life arrives we shed the green and feel free to reveal our inner beauty and uniqueness just as the leaves do. this is a spiritual message even though god said to me it was to raise money for the new england states..

(24) david bier, August 28, 2014 5:50 PM

The tree needs it's leaves

Interesting comment about the leaves being our deeds. Leaves are the means by which the tree gets it sustenance. It thrives for a season, drops it leaves to rest, and then uses the sustenance derived through this year to produce new leaves (deeds) next year. Sugars and such in the leaves cause the colors, so the quality of the deed will determine it's beauty, though all produce next year's strength for the tree.

(23) Yehudith Shraga, July 15, 2012 10:02 PM

You know, autumn is quite different here in Israel !

Finding messiges in the surrounding world is very nice, but these are one's personal messages, and they are not always equel for all of us, as for the roots of the Hebrew words they all have different opposide meanings to make different words derived from them Shanna(year)-Shinnun( repeatition)-Shinuyi( new change), so there is a point of our constant spiritual work, no matter that the time goes around we go straight to the Creator we are Israel=Yashar Kel theach us kabbalaists ( read some articles of Baal haSulam and Baruch Ashlag), as for the work and our holidays it is a challenge to make them each year something special, something unforgettable, so as we see the repetition of holidays and the change=making them very special experiance co-exist together in each and every year and give us opportunity to find the right, Devine proportion between everything.

(22) Anonymous, May 25, 2010 12:59 PM

Not to argue but

How does this work if the seasons are opposite in the souhtern hemishpere?

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